BEIRUT: Summer solstice falls on June 21 and, once again, it will be accompanied by the strains of music, resonating through the Lebanese capital.
The 2014 edition of the Fete de la Musique promises to offer some entertaining diversion during the longest night of the year, and provide a local platform for a wide variety of performing artists.
Since it was founded in 1982 by France’s then-Culture Minister Jack Lang, this worldwide, night-long celebration of music has been adopted in more than 340 cities, in a hundred-odd countries.
Beirut joined the party 14 years ago with sets performed by a selection of prominent local and international bands, and has been staging versions of the event every year since then. This year Martyrs’ Square, Samir Kassir Garden, Beirut Souks, Zaitunay Bay and a smattering of churches and some bars in Mar Mikhael district will metamorphose into performance venues.
On the eve of the solstice Yukunkun, Gemmayzeh’s best-loved subterranean venue, will host a party featuring Swiss DJ Estephe – who’s said to be among the top DJs performing in the South of France nowadays.
Other popular venues, such as Mar Mikhael’s Radio Beirut, Jisr al-Wati’s Station and Hamra’s Loft 21, will also be hosting Fetes-like gigs, though the bands they’ll feature are being kept under wraps until closer to the event.
Among the headliners is Khebez Dawle, a Syrian pop band that has been based in Beirut since last year. The ensemble – comprised of Anas Maghrebi, Muhammad Bazz, Bachar Darwish and Hekmat Qassar – will officially launch “Khebez Dawle,” its debut record, in July and their Martyrs’ Square gig will provide an opportunity to show off what they’ve got.
Martyrs’ Square will be a hip-hop and rock’n’roll hub on Solstice.
Among the rockers to look forward to is The Wanton Bishops. Anchored by Nader Mansour and Eddy Ghossein, this Lebanese duo will be fresh from their tour of France, the U.S. and Turkey. For their fans, the Bishops are a magnificent blend of U.S. blues music sieved through a rock’n’roll sensibility.
Jetting in all the way from Kuwait, the self-styled multimedia artist and music producer Zahed Sultan will be on hand with several collaborators to introduce Beirutis to his unique sound, blending multiple instruments (acoustic and electronic) with video projection.
Lovers of folk music may want to spend some of the evening at the Roman Baths. Among the performers there will be Sandmoon, a Lebanese indie band with a folk-rock sensibility. Together since 2010, Sandra Arslanian, Maen Rajab, Roy Khazen, Gerard Rechdan and Shushan Artinian promise to debut some new numbers especially for the longest night of the year.
Also to be found at the Baths will be guitarist, singer-songwriter Allen Seif (aka OAK). Listed among Beirut’s more prominent discoveries in the past few years, OAK was a musician of the diaspora before returning to Beirut. Compared by some to the U.K. band Travis, OAK’s lyrics address such themes as desire, identity and beauty.
The Baths will also feature sets by Afro-Brazilian percussion outfit Segundo Bloco, Lebanese rockers Meen, Exsonvaldes, Semitic Genetic, Elie Ramly and the three-man Safar, whose music seeks to capture the timeless spirit of Indian folk, blended with the flavor of urban pop and rock.
The Samir Kassir Garden will host several blues and funk acts, including Chris Thomas, Ada and Georgy on hand to interpret classics from the blues and folk songbooks.
SKG will also stage a set with the new-and-improved Guru. Since they acquired a female vocalist, the band has begun to explore new directions and its members promise to share new compositions during the fete.
Acts like Slow Train, Afrobeat Collective, Ruby Roadand and KMKL promise playlists that mingle electronica, reggae, jazz and rock.
The Beirut Souks venue promises to stage a playlist that includes Pink Floyd covers, heavy metal, hip hop and slam.
Among these will be the Beirut-based percussion ensemble Jebebara devotes itself to performing (and teaching) music from the Mandeng region (shared by Senegal, Guinea and Mali).
Another, somewhat different, African voice at the Souks will be Moroccan rapper Mustafa, who’s expected to deliver a set of politically and socially informed poetic hip hop. Lebanese alternative rockers The Coolcumbers will be performing tunes from their album “Time & Youth,” which was released at the end of last year.
Fans of the all-woman Romanian classical quartet Amadeus should get themselves down to Zaitunay Bay, the erstwhile upscale restaurant ghetto, which will also host several sets. The Romanians are expected to perform hits from their seventh album “Unstoppable.”
Eclectic is the name of the game at Zaitunay Bay, which will also host gigs by the children’s choir of the Palestinian refugee camps of Shatila and Burj al-Barajneh, Lebanese soprano Maya Hobeika will also appear.
As has been the case in previous years, the churches of St. Louis of the Capuchin and St. Elie will stage sets by student musicians from the Lebanese Conservatoire, Dida Guigan’s a capella choir, the Bustan Festival choir, as well as youngsters from the Ghassan Yammine school.
Fete de la Musique will also have facts on the ground in Tripoli, where Frank Darwisch will deliver a conference on Fairouz. In Deir al-Qamar, meanwhile, organizers have scheduled musical evening in support of the village’s favorite World Cup teams.
The 2014 Fete de la Musique will be celebrated on June 21 in several venues around town. For more information, please visit www.institutfrancais-liban.com.